The Epitome of the Ecotourism Enigma

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Visiting the Galapagos Islands

AnGalapagos Islands ecotourismyone who has any interest in nature, animals and our ecosystem probably has a desire to see the Galapagos Islands.  However, it is these thousands of tourists that flock to these islands every year that might be destroying them.  I usually write about all the wonderful reasons to see a destination, however, with the Galapagos, the reasons to visit them are obvious, it’s the reasons not to that scare me.

Unfortunately, one of the main problems lies in that the Galapagos Islands do not
have the infrastructure to sustain its population or the visitors.   Sewage treatment and garbage disposal are some of the main infrastructure issues facing the islands. Not to mention that as tourism increases so does the introduction of invasive species.  The reason that the GalapagoWomen's Travel Club Galapagoss exists is due to their segregation from the mainland.  Introduction of invasive species can be very hazardous to this delicate ecosystem.   While the Galapagos are one of the most fragile environments in the world they are also one of the fastest growing economies in South America.  Almost 40,000 inhabitants call the Galapagos home, a number that keeps increasing because of the jobs and income available.  These jobs are here because of the ever increasing amount of tourism coming to the islands.  The economic impact for Ecuador can’t be ignored and will be the reason that there will always be tourism to the Galapagos Islands.

However, there is some good news.  In 2007 the World Heritage Committee recommended that Galapagos be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in hopes of rallying support for their conservation, then in 2010 the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Galapagos from the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing significant progress made by Ecuador in addressing the problems identified in its 2007 report.  Hotels on some of the islands are becoming more popular and pose less of an environmental threat than the larger boats very common with tourists.  Of the islands 97 % are part of the GalapagoGalapagos Islands s National Park which is designed to keep the Galapagos protected.

In all, the Galapagos Islands are a stunning destination with abundant and unique
wildlife which due to a lack of natural predators is fearless.  It is an animal and nature lover’s paradise, with giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and many bird species that can be seen and approached.  When visiting this amazing area every care has to be made to preserve this natural wonderland.  The Women’s Travel Club will be planning an eco-friendly tour to this amazing destination in 2017.

Women only Galapagos Tour

Castles, Shopping and Whiskey Tasting

Women's Travel Club IrelandOften what makes a tour truly special is the ladies on the tour.  That is exactly the case with our Women’s Travel Club tour of Ireland this June.  It was an amazing tour, mostly due to the fabulous ladies on the tour.  We spent 12 days touring Ireland including Northern Ireland and Belfast.  Definite highlights of the tour were the beautiful accommodations, including two castle stays.  Women's Travel Club in Ireland

Ireland has no shortage of castles.  From ancient ruins to magnificent private residences and hotels.  We were very fortunate to stay in two castles, Lough Eske Castle and Clontarf Castle.  Both of these hotels were outstanding and completely spoiled our ladies.

Shopping is always popular in Women’s Travel Club tours and Ireland was no exception.  Learning that most of the sheep in Ireland were not used for their wool did not deter us from buying a plethora of Aran Wool Sweaters.  Other very popular purchases included jewelry, pottery and crystal.  I must say, our little group did it’s part to help out the Irish economy.

Of course, shopping was not the only way we spent free time.  Sightseeing and photography kept many of us very busy, not to mention the occasional pub visit.  DSCF7397

Every group tends to have their own ‘thing’.  Some common interest that becomes a bond for the group.  For this group it was whiskey tasting.  Every evening, the group would gather in the hotel bar and try a different Irish whiskey.  By the time we got to the Jamieson Distillery we had some definite experts in this group.

Ireland was a wonderful tour and I for one, will miss my time with these terrific ladiesWhisky Tasting in Ireland.  However, I have a feeling that I will be seeing many of them on future tours in other lovely places.

Want to see more?  Check out our video showing the highlights from the tour –

 

 

New Tours for 2016

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We have been very hard at work putting together some fabulous new tours for 2016.  I am really happy with our selection of tours.  We have been able to work with our suppliers to get outstanding inclusions that I think our members will love.  Every tour is a bit different and brings out the best of the area we are visiting.  These tours are all at the pre-booking phase, this means we might not have the complete itiPre-book Women's Travel Club Toursnerary or pricing for the tour but our members can put their name down to hold a spot.  There is no obligation and you can decide once all the final details are announced.  However, you know there will be a spot available for you and a great bonus – you will save $100 off the tour.

Have a look at the following tours and see what interests you –

Vietnam – March 2016
Women's Travel Club Vietnam TourJoin the Women’s Travel Club on our journey to this beautiful and exotic destination. With many extras, such as a cooking class, overnight on Halong Bay and a side trip to Siem Reap to explore Angkor Wat this will by an amazing tour. This magical land is on everyone’s list so if you are interested get your name down early.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/Vietnam.html

Greece – May 2016
Women's Travel Club Greece TourGorgeous turquoise water and white washed villages bring to mind one the most iconic destinations. Greece is always a very popular Women’s Travel Club tour. We will visit archeological sites and ancient monasteries in Athens, Delphi and Meteora. Plus nights in a selection of gorgeous Greek islands.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/Greece.html

Spain – July 2016
Women's Travel Club Spain TourSpain’s history and architecture make it perfect for walking tours to experience the tastes and scenery of this gorgeous country. Join us as we explore the royal palaces of Madrid, the lively culture and scenery of Andalucía and visit the fairy-tale Alhambra Palace.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/Spain.html

France – June 2016
Women's Travel Club France TourWe start our tour of France in the city of lights, Paris. Enjoy unforgettable attractions, monuments, museums and of course, amazing shopping. From Paris we continue to Lyon to explore the renaissance district. Here we will find their famous covered passageways which lead from one street to the next via corridors through residences, superbly hide renovated architectural treasures: inner courtyards, covered Italian archways and spiral staircases. From Lyon we continue to Provence, known for its beautiful lavender fields and outstanding wines. Book early as to not be disappointed.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/France.html

England – September 2016
Women's Travel Club England TourEngland is a country rich in history and always a Women’s Travel Club favorite. Our tour will include London, Oxford, Stratford on Avon, Stonehenge, Bath and Wales. From theatre and royalty to shopping and outstanding scenery this will be an amazing tour.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/England.html

Costa Rica Adventure – February 2016
Women's Travel Club Costa Rica AdventureThis breathtaking adventure will take you to hidden areas of Costa Rica not seen by many visitors. Be ready to trek into the heart of the jungle, bunk down behind a massive waterfall, make sugar cane candy and much more. This tour is full of adventure including ziplining and white water rafting.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/CostaRica.html

Uganda & Rwanda Ultimate Safari – June 2016
Women's Travel Club Rwanda and Uganda SafariBoth Uganda and Rwanda are full of amazing wildlife and adventure. In this intimate journey we will stay in authentic guesthouses and local farms. This outstanding tour will include gorilla and chimp treks and a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Connect with this captivating land.
More info- http://womens-travel-club.com/GorillaTrek.html

Ireland Riding Tour – August 2016
Women's Travel Club Ireland RideThis amazing ride will introduce the enthusiastic horseback rider and traveler to the Gaelic cultural richness of the Connemara countryside. This region of Galway is renowned for its outstanding scenery. It is a stunning patchwork of bogs, lonely valleys, pale grey mountains and small lakes that shimmer when the sun shines. There is no better way to experience this delightful area of Ireland than from the back of a horse.
More info – http://womens-travel-club.com/IrelandRiding.html

 

 

 

 

Packing for a Tour

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We often get asked what to pack for a tour.  While what you need to take with you on a vacation can be very individualized there are a few suggestions for packing for an organized tour.  One of the big challenges with an organized tour is that you will be living out of your suitcase.  This can quickly make for a disaster and repacking each day is not fun.  A little organization ahead of time will make everything run a bit smoother.

How to pack for a tour

Suitcases quickly can look like this on a tour.

First step is to go out and buy a box of the biggest re-close-able  bags you can find.  I like the ones with the little plastic tab as they are easier to open and close.  Use these bags to organize small items such as underwear, shoes and take an empty one for dirty laundry.

Packing for a tour

A dollar store is a great place to get these bags cheap.

When it comes to packing your clothes, roll them instead of stacking.  Your clothes will stay neater, take up less room and it will be much easier to find what you are looking for.  If you have specific outfits that go together roll them together.  Put clothes that you will only wear once at the bottom of your suitcase and keep clothes  you will wear repeatedly, such as jackets, at the top.  If you have clothes that will need to be hung up, put them all on hangers and into one dress bag, fold the bag over into your suitcase.  Then remove the whole bag each night at your hotel and hang it.

Women's Travel Club packing tips

Much better!

Don’t over pack.  Don’t pack clothes for your trip that you would never wear at home.  Things won’t magically fit better on your trip and you will wear what you are most comfortable in.  Do not pack more than 3 pairs or shoes.  Make the decision before you go and narrow down.

How to pack for a tour

I find narrowing down shoes the hardest part!

All airlines and most tours limit the number and weight of your bags.  Oversize and overweight bags can result in outrageous fees.  Toiletries can really quickly add to your weight.  Be sure to put shampoo, conditioner etc into smaller bottles.  You can always buy more while traveling if you need to.  Also, be sure to weigh your bag before you leave, you don’t want any surprises at the airport.

 

Hidden Costa Rica

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We have added a new adventure tour – Costa Rica.  I am usually the tour leader on the adventure tours, so in the interest of full disclosure on my new blog there is something I have to admit.  I am afraid to go on this tour!  Yes, I said it, I am scared.  There are three things I am scared of on this particular tour – 1. heights  2. rapids and 3. spiders.

I actually think the heights aren’t too bad (although I hate heights).  The two activities that involve heights are ziplining and rappelling.   I have

Zipline in Costa Rica

I am hoping our zipline is only this high.

been ziplining before and quite enjoyed it.  That being said, the zipline over the Savegre river will probably be incredibly high and I will change my mind once I see it.  The rappelling is another story, it looks really high.  But I figure I can always bail on this activity and walk back down the way I came up.

Rappelling at Diamante Falls

Maybe if I don’t look down.

The rapids are what really scares me.  I have been whitewater rafting before and I hated it.  I thought I was going to die the whole time.  I have googled whitewater rafting down the Savegre River and almost every picture has someone falling out of the raft.  The worst part is that is that there is no way around it.  It is how we get from A to B.  I will be the one curled up crying on the bottom of the boat!

Whitewater rafting on Savegre River, Costa Rica

I might see if they have a path I can walk down.

Now for the spiders.  I, like most females I know have a visceral fear of spiders.  Costa Rica is home to nearly 20,000 different species of spiders.  I figure that makes the possibility of running into a few quite high….eek.  I can only hope they are more afraid of me then I am of them….but I doubt it.

Costa Rica Spider

Okay, before I have a panic attack  lets talk about the parts of the tour that I am excited about.  First on my list is the trekking and hiking in the jungle.  Even with the possibility of spiders I love hiking and I love jungles and forest.  We spend a lot of time on this tour hiking from one point to another.  The jungle is also full of wildlife, including monkeys and amazing birds.  This I am quite looking forward to.

Jungle Trek

A jungle trek in Tobago

One of the highlights of this tour is that we spend one night in a cave behind a waterfall.  However, this is unlike any cave you have seen before.  It is huge and fully equipped with stone furniture, working composting toilets and a full kitchen.  I think this will be an amazing experience.

Diamante Cave Costa Rica

I think this is very cool!

After all this time in the jungle our last two days are in the beautiful beach community of Uvita.  Here we will switch gears, with snorkeling, horseback riding and a visit to a marine national park.

I know that once I face my fears and work my way through the activities that scare me that I will feel incredibly empowered.  I just have to concentrate on the parts that I am really excited about.

 

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the official blog of the Women’s Travel Club.  I am Marianne Southall, the founder of the Women’s Travel Club, I also play Terry Traveler in our video series (but that is another story).  I have started this blog to give a bit of a personal touch the the club and the tours we offer.  A bit of a confession, this isn’t my first attempt at a blog, and generally my downfall is falling short on keeping content up to date.  What helps…. comments, reminding me that there is someone out there that might be interested in what I have to say.  So, if you want to see more, make some comments.  It doesn’t have to be long or witty, it  can be a simple hi or your grammar sucks or whatever else you want to say.

Let me start with a little about myself and where the club came from.  Like so many women I am a travel addict, I am not home from a trip when I am planning another trip.  I drive my family and friends crazy trying to get them to take trips and vacations with me.  Then I discovered that there are a ton of ladies out there just like me!  For some reason, many women (more than men) have this inherent drive to travel and see new places.  From this an idea was born, tours designed specifically for women.  A fun, safe way for women to travel.  Here is a cute video that we put together –

The Women’s Travel Club is now three agents working together.  Debbie Groulx is another agent from Ontario, Canada.  Debbie puts together a lot of the tours.  She has a very keen attention to detail.  Very often when we get  a tour put together by a supplier Debbie goes back to them time and time again to get every point just perfect.  I am more the bull in a china shop, plow ahead and get it done type.  This makes Debbie and I a great team, with very good balance.

Our newest agent is Victoria Cantrell from California, USA.  Victoria is our American connection and brings her own style to the team.  She specializes in the South Pacific and Hawaii.  Watch for some fabulous new tours to come up designed by Victoria.

As for my favorite type of tour?  While there isn’t anywhere in the world that I wouldn’t go, but my favorite tour will involve animals and nature.  You will find me escorting (and designing) most of the adventure tours.

I hope you enjoy the blog and getting a little glimpse inside the Women’s Travel Club.